When it comes to orthodontics, many people still think of teens in braces before anything else. However, patients of all ages can benefit from orthodontic care, including children! Although treatment in the teen years is indeed popular, early orthodontic evaluations are important, too. So important, in fact, that it’s why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
If you’re a parent, this recommendation may be confusing. After all, most children this age still have developing mouths and a number of baby teeth, so you might wonder why they would need to see an orthodontist so soon. Rest assured, this is all part of the preventative approach we take to orthodontic care here at Petrunic Orthodontics! Scheduling an early exam with an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Petrunic gives our expert team the chance to catch any orthodontic issues sooner rather than later, helping to prevent a negative impact on their future permanent teeth and their bite.
We treat many younger patients, and as such, we’ve been able to observe firsthand how starting treatment at the right time can benefit their oral health. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how their mouth is developing. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation, and keep reading below to learn more about what Dr. Petrunic will be checking for during your child’s initial evaluation.
Crowding and spacing
Dr. Manley will usually be able to tell pretty early on if a child is experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing, or if they’re likely to in the future. Spacing issues can show up if a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced farther apart than normal. If crowding is the problem, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Crooked teeth are hard to clean efficiently, and they’re also more susceptible to damage and wear. If a misalignment is untreated over a long enough period of time, it can compromise the surrounding gum tissue. It may even affect the shape and position of it of the gum line eventually. While we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on correcting these issues helps minimize some of that wear and tear in children, giving them the best chance of a healthy smile!
Tooth loss and eruption
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth since they all fall out eventually, anyway! But because they are placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think. Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If Dr. Petrunic notices there’s been any significant deviation from that pattern, it could signify a developmental issue that needs further attention from our team.
By the time they’re ready for an orthodontic evaluation, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If a child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there are missing, crowded, or extra teeth. For some of these cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early. In others, we may opt to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent other problems later on.
Overbite (protruding front teeth)
While obvious overbites can be a cosmetic concern, the effects can go beyond that. They may also cause pain in the jaw, and can even interfere with a child’s normal speech patterns. In general, we need to wait until a child’s mouth has finished growing before we can permanently correct an overbite. That said, there are still a number of options for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they are growing. Corrective measures can also improve a younger patient’s confidence and self-esteem.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, and it may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood can reduce crowding and create space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
In a deep bite, the child’s top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This sometimes indicates a small lower jaw. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This may be caused by poor oral habits, such as extended finger or thumb sucking, or if a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long. We’re happy to work with you and your child to help eliminate any destructive habits early on, so that their dental development can continue normally.
With an underbite, the lower jaw grows too far forward. This can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. We’ll typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment, usually around their mid- to late-teens. However, early treatment is still important to help avoid any bite-shifting or damage to the front teeth. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.
Early evaluations lead to healthier smiles at Petrunic Orthodontics
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the issues younger patients can face, it’s easy to see why early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of a child’s oral health! A visit with Dr. Petrunic can help prevent the need for more invasive orthodontics as an adult, and can also make any comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient.
Here at Petrunic Orthodontics, our team works hard to provide the highest quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in a friendly, welcoming, and stress-free environment. If your child is ready for an orthodontic evaluation, get in touch today to schedule a complimentary consultation!